The Stare Decisis of Racial Inequality: Supreme Court Race Jurisprudence and the Legacy of Legal Apartheid in the United States Academic Article uri icon


  • More than a generation after the civil rights movement, racial inequality persists as a defining characteristic of United States social structure. Scholars from across the political spectrum have discussed and debated the causes of persistent racial inequality, offering various interpretations. Yet in the work of these otherwise different scholars, there is a consistent theme the post civil rights era is an era of formal legal equality. Employing a method of structurally situated critical discourse analysis comparing Supreme Court race jurisprudence in the Post-Civil War and the post-Civil Rights Eras, this article interrogates this deployment of the concept of formal equality. The analysis reveals that in both eras the Supreme Court utilizes a discursive frame that asserts the position of formal legal equality, yet simultaneously employs narrative moves that ignore social structural mechanisms of racial inequality. The result is a legacy of legal framing that deploys an epistemology of ignorance as a mechanism to protect white privilege, power, and wealth.

published proceedings

  • Critical Sociology

altmetric score

  • 3.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Moore, W. L.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Moore, Wendy Leo

publication date

  • January 2014